“Welcome to the Woodshuck Memorial Festival: Three Days Of Peace, Love And Death!”
So began one of the funniest and spot-on parodies of the Woodstock generation with this announcement made by none other than John Belushi. Lemmings was performed as a stage show by National Lampoon in 1973, and not only launched the career of Belushi, but also introduced many of us to Chevy Chase, Tony Hendra and Christopher Guest.
The show opened at the Village Gate, in New York City, on January 25, 1973, and ran for 350 performances. It included a then-unknown John Belushi performing a parody of Joe Cocker on the song “Lonely At The Bottom” (with fellow Lampooner Paul Jacobs taking on the part of Leon Russell). Belushi’s Cocker would reach a much wider audience on Saturday Night Live several years later.
Other parodies included “Highway Toes” performed by Christopher Guest (This Is Spinal Tap, Best In Show, Waiting For Guffman and A Mighty Wind, to name a few) taking on James Taylor, “Positively Wall Street” also by Guest, this time as Bob Dylan and “Pizza Man,” a send up of ‘50s Rock and Roll hilariously performed by Alice Playton. Today’s Song Of the Day, “Lemming Lament” was performed by Paul Jacobs, Christopher Guest, Alice Playton and John Belushi, billed as Freud, Marx, Engels and Jung, taking the piss out of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
I’ve been a fan of this album since it came out in 1973, but I never knew of the existence of a filmed performance that was released on VHS many years ago. Of course, it is now out of print on video again, but can be seen in its entirety on YouTube.
The Lemmings album was not National Lampoon’s first foray into musical parody. They released the album Radio Dinner the year before which also featured Christopher Guest and Tony Hendra (who does a great John Lennon on “Magical Misery Tour”), along with SNL alum Michael O’Donoghue and Melissa Manchester. The Lampoon would go to the well again in 1975, with the album Goodbye Pop featuring Christopher Guest, Paul Jacobs, Paul Shaffer, and future SNL alum Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner.
John Belushi as the Woodshuck announcer parodying an actual Woodstock announcement: “There isn’t enough food to go around. There just isn’t enough food. So remember, the man next to you is your dinner.” Classic…all the way!
The whole broadcast…